Day 3 of 12//Ellie//CNU

 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.Psalm 4:7
At the beginning of 2014, joy was not really a quality I possessed. I tended to only have happiness in my heart when things were going the way I wanted them to go. But the greatest thing the Lord has taught me this year – this semester, especially – is that His plans are wildly better than any I can dream up on my own. 
This year He proved that to me in big ways – especially with my coming to Christopher Newport this fall, which was maybe my 4th choice out of the six colleges. I arrived bitter, joyless, ready to transfer out, and overall just really unpleasant. I knew that God wanted me there, at least for that one semester, but I wasn’t excited to see what he had in store for me.
And then I was superbly wrong, because the Lord showed up in really big ways. (To be perfectly honest, bigger ways than I ever expected from Him.) He answered my prayers in tangible, clear ways. He brought me to friends, to Cru, to a Bible study with girls who mentor me. 
I’m still overwhelmed by the outpouring.
None of it was what I expected from God and none of it was involved in my original plans, but it was what I didn’t realize I needed. And I truly feel like my heart has become more light since coming here. My happiness is more centralized on Jesus and less centralized on people. 
It was coming to somewhere where I expected nothing, yet received everything, that I realized where the unwavering joy really comes from. I’ve finally started understanding how the prodigal son must have felt when returning to the feast, expecting to be a servant but being welcomed back as a son.
Joy comes from harboring an attitude that we don’t deserve anything. It comes from the expectancy to receive everything that comes as a gift. Joy stems right out of gratitude, and gratitude doesn’t depend on our circumstances. 
It’s from our daily decision to say yes to Jesus, the knowledge that at the end of the day, we are the King’s children no matter how badly the broken world has treated us that day. 
I’ll leave you with this song, because it’s a testament to God’s faithfulness and coming full-circle in teaching me about the joy of Himself. For joy, I say, listen to the Lord and know that He is both faithful and good, and that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Tidings of comfort and joy!!

Ellie DuHadway is a freshman at Christopher Newport University, and is studying Studio Art and English. Her favorite Christmas tradition is wearing ugly Christmas sweaters as much as humanly possible during this lovely and ugly-sweater-inspiring season.

Day 2 of 12//Laura Kate//CNU

First, I am so happy/grateful to Brooke and the rest of our Cru Staff ladies for allowing me to write a Christmas post for them. I love Cru, Christmas, and blogging, so this seems like a perfect fit, right?
If I could sum up one of the main things I’ve learned this semester, it would be the importance of being present. These past several weeks have been difficult for me and many of my junior friends (no one told me THIS was when college would get hard!). Through all the emotional ups and downs, Jesus has reinforced how vital community is to the Christian life.
So, how does being present relate to Christmas?
[other than the semi-obvious word pun I hope you noticed]
In the month of December, it’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of sales and buying gifts, the rush of seeing the lighted drive-throughs in EACH city of Hampton Roads, and many other Christmas-y things. But, while those things are great, I want to encourage you to fight through those layers to the heart of Christmas: joy, peace, and community.
Treasure the people around you.
Give your time, your laughter, your empathy, your comfort, your gratitude, your attention, and your friendship this season. Your presence is a gift that will outlast those fuzzy socks you got on sale.
If you’re looking for an example of awesome Christian community, look no further than Acts 2:42-47 and the early church (it’s basically saying it’s a great idea to have potlucks – which is good…I love potlucks). This semester, I’ve been insanely blessed with the best roommates imaginable and a Cru small group to match. Yes, these past couple months have been demanding, but knowing I had two solid groups of friends to encourage me made all the difference.
Christmas (and life) is better when you’re connected to people you love. So, in the next few days leading up to Christmas, remember to be present (even if it means saying bye to Facebook for a little bit!)

Bio: I’m Laura Kate (Otherwise known as LK, pictured bottom row in red), and I’m a junior studying English at Christopher Newport University! My favorite Christmas tradition is eating chicken curry on Christmas Eve with my family and watching It’s a Wonderful Life after dinner.

::Day 1 of 12//Sarah//VCU::

Can they tell? Can they see it through my smile? …Just keep smiling and singing and hugging.”
            These are the thoughts flowing through my head as I stood in the Christmas Eve service of my freshman year of high school. I am surrounded by my family and friends, and people I have known for the majority of my life. I feel very at home and yet I feel like a picture hanging in a gallery,

flipped backwards and completely cock-eyed…out of place and obviously flawed. My doubts weigh heavy and the feeling of guilt repeatedly washes over me for the majority of the service.

        I “grew up” in the church and was there every time the doors were open, and even when they were shut and locked in some cases. I knew the verses, the songs, the Bible stories…especially the one of Jesus’ birth. That Christmas was different though. A few months before Christmas, I began to have HUGE doubts. “How do we know the Bible is 100% true? What if some old man wrote this thousands of years ago just to mess with people and here we are today- making fools of ourselves singing and rejoicing about this “Jesus” guy? Did Jesus really come and lay in a manger? Born from a virgin? And…if this isn’t true, what is?”
I have thought many times before, being raised in a ‘Christian home’ has its blessings, a bounty of them. But, it often times has some down-falls. The stories in the Bible, from Noah and the ark to Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, almost become so common and so unbelievable. Sadly, not because of the awe-worthiness and majesty of them but because you hear it from a young age and you hear them as “stories”. Then you grow up and you face the question- “Do I really believe this?”

    Doubt is a big part of my testimony. I still sometimes struggle with it, especially at Christmas time, but God has worked in my life and shown me He is real, He is good and He is faithful. Christmas time brings doubt into the spot light, right in front of your face and does a little dance, which leads to guilt and feelings of shame doing the same little jig. Whether you have heard the story of Jesus and His birth a hundred times, like I have, or this year is the first time you have heard it- I urge you to come. “Girlfriend, come?” Yes girl, come. Come adore Jesus with me. “But what about my doubts? I feel so distant from God. I have so many reservations.” While thinking about what to write for this entry, I thought and was reminded of something I’ve heard before- “doubt and faith go hand-in-hand.” Bring your doubts and your fears and come adore this sweet little baby Jesus with me. Take a step in faith and come adore Him.

   The word “adore” is one of my favorite words. You hear it often in Christmas songs. To adore someone means “to love and respect them deeply”, and in some cases “to worship” because of that love and respect. When you see the miracle in the birth of Jesus, when you read how Mary “…gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger…” (Luke 2:7 ESV), when you see how the prophecies were fulfilled, and realize God sent His Son in the form of a little baby, it’s overwhelming and humbling. I get to adore Him. Praise Him that though I have my doubts and concerns, He still came and He asks us to come adore Him.

   Though doubts creep in and so does guilt, I pray and encourage you to bring those doubts with you and come see how beautiful the birth of Jesus is, whether it’s for the first time, for hundredth time.

O Come let us adore Him…”
Who am I?: Sarah What am I doin’?: I am a sophomore psych major at VCU. I am the president for the first ever Cru at VCU!!!! SO cool!!  Favorite Christmas tradition: I absolutely looooove being with my family and friends around Christmas. My brothers and I exchange a gift from one another on Christmas Eve after dinner and the Christmas Eve service. Though it’s not a tradition, family time is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I have an awesome family.